Sigurd Grava, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia University, died suddenly at home on September 14, 2009. Sig, as he was known, was 74 years old. He was born on September 25, 1934, in Liepāja, Latvia. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Ruta and his son Lars. He immigrated to the United States in 1950.
Sig Grava was an internationally recognized expert in transport and infrastructure planning. His work took him to all corners of the world. As Vice President and Technical Director of Planning at Parsons Brinckerhoff, Sig was the team leader on many the major planning projects that shaped New York over the last three decades. His work has brought him international honors. He was an elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and elected a member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. He also was awarded the Order of the Three Stars from the Republic of Latvia (Triju Zvaigžņu Ordenis).
His 2003 book Urban Transportation Systems: Choices for Communities published by McGraw-Hill is a mainstay reference on the world’s urban transport systems. His writings have appeared in all the scholarly journals in his field.
He received his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the City College of New York in 1955, his masters’ degree in housing and planning from Columbia University in 1957 and his Ph.D. in transportation planning in 1965. He has been a member of the planning faculty at Columbia since 1960.
In his close to 50 year affiliation with the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Professor Grava has taught several generations of Columbia planning students. His graduates are among the most influential planners of the current generation. Sig was fond of saying that all he did was teach the rudiments of planning noting that the most important lesson he taught in site planning was that water could not run uphill. In truth he taught quite sophisticated classes demanding methodological rigor from all his students. His sardonic wit and planning wisdom will be sorely missed in Avery Hall.